Pardons Sought for Troops Discharged for Mental Health-related Offenses

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By Debbie Gregory.

Military veteran advocates are urging President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump to join forces and pardon tens of thousands of post-9/11 service members whose “bad paper” or “general” discharges were based on infractions related to mental health issues.

John Rowan, the national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America says such a pardon can only be achieved if President Obama and President-elect Trump work together to identify and restore benefits to these some 300,000 veterans.

“Over the last 15 years of continuous warfare, our government has failed to respond appropriately to multiple, comprehensive reports of veterans being inappropriately discharged from the military,” the letter states. “We implore you to at least save the current generation of America’s warriors an unfairly marginal life as outcasts in the nation they have so faithfully served.”

Bad paper discharges are often given to those who suffered from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma or other mental health issues.

Others have been kicked out for alcohol abuse, drug use and suicide attempts.

Between fiscal years 2000–2013, these types of bad paper discharges totaled 125,204. However, what is spoken about even less are those who have “general” discharges, which means veterans also lose benefits and have difficulty finding jobs in the civilian world. Veterans discharged under general conditions number as many as 172,125 since 2000.

Advocates insist that these veterans should have received treatment for those under-diagnosed problems. Veterans with less-than-honorable discharges are ineligible for a host of government benefits, including free health care.

While veterans can appeal those discharges, the process is complicated, time-consuming and expensive.

Instead, Rowan is asking for an upgrade in discharge status for all veterans who qualify and “to immediately grant access to PTS and TBI screening at the VA for all veterans.”

Setting up the system to identify and screen eligible veterans will not happen overnight, which is why the president-elect’s cooperation is vital.

Between fiscal years 2000–2013, these types of bad paper discharges totaled 125,204. However, what is spoken about even less are those who have “general” discharges, which means veterans also lose benefits and have difficulty finding jobs in the civilian world. Veterans discharged under general conditions number as many as 172,125 since 2000.

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